After a three-year wait, Calvin Harris is back with Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, a groovy album packed with superstar features. The tropical, funky sound he injects each track with is infectious, and while it’s not a spark of genius or anything completely innovative, it’s certainly one of the most fun albums to come out this year.
Harris flexes his all-star roster of collaborations starting with the first track “Slide,” with rap trio Migos and R&B star Frank Ocean. The silky vocals of Ocean and the rhythmic rhymes of Migos perfectly match the beats by Harris–the different elements melding in a stand-out, sharp single. In fact, much of the album plays into Harris’ forte of pop-rap, but he interprets them differently from other DJs. It’s apparent from the first track that he has deviated from the hard-hitting EDM beats that once defined his music, and this funky style eventually carries through the rest of the album.
The warmth throughout the record is telling of what seems like Harris’ target of making music with a more chill vibe. The heavy synths in “Faking It” that seem to just melt into Kehlani’s R&B sensibilities showcase this vibrant, tropical warmth that Harris breathes into every song. “Heatstroke” defines the album, with the lyrics preaching “Let go and have a good time.” The song is straight from the ‘80’s, with doo-wops and beats akin to old-school disco, expanding the range Harris’ has shown with his music. After this bop comes the catchy “Rollin” where Harris collaborates with fresh talents Future and Khalid. Though the formula feels similar to the first track, Harris shows that he is no one-trick pony. The silky vocals and rhythmic rhymes here aren’t the same, as Harris creates a new feel, more smooth and contemporary.
Despite the fluid flow of the album, the differences in each song are actually highlighted, as Harris teeters between old and new. “Cash Out,” a track with ScHoolboy Q, PARTYNEXTDOOR and D.R.A.M., sounds like it belongs in a rap album from the ‘90’s golden age of rap, despite the young artists on the track. “Holiday” enlists veterans Snoop Dogg and John Legend with relatively new artist Takeoff, creating something completely unexpected from the three artists, twisting their usual styles. Harris took a gamble, putting these artists out of their comfort zone (sometimes too far). But because of that, some tracks from Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 sound timeless. This is highlighted in his track with rap goddess Nicki Minaj, “Skrt on Me,” where Minaj both follows Harris’ style of tropical party music with her usual style of fast raps using her different personas. Harris doesn’t only deliver Nicki at her finest, but also Nicki from another perspective.
Nothing in Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 screams song of the summer, but summer is something that can definitely be felt in the songs. It’s one of those albums that, when played in a crowded party, gets you asking, “Where is this song from?”
What Harris has crafted with this album is a showcase of his artistry, but with the help of some of the biggest names in the music scene, it can be a generational album that highlights this era in music.